The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has documented the torture and death of political prisoners as well as the violation of numerous other human rights in Uruguay. From the report of the organization of American States body, along with evidence recently presented by international missions to the country, a picture is emerging of Uruguay as the most persistent violator of the 1948 hemishperic human rights declaration which the one-time haven of democracy helped to establish.
Last week the U.N. Humman Rights Commission took up the case of Uruguay along with several others. This was in response to rights activists who accused the U.N. body of confining its efforts to Chile, South Africa and Israel while complaints flowed in from Uruguay, Uganda and elsewhere.
The United States has ended military aid to Uruguay because of the rights situation. It also led a successful effort in OAS to reject Uruguay as a site for the annual General Assembly.
The inter-American rights commission concluded that "grave violations of the following human rights have been committed in Uruguay: The rights to life, to liberty, to the security and integrity of the person; the right to freedom of opinion, expression and diffusion of beliefs." It also mentioned violations of the rights to justice, due process, assoication, the vote ans participation in government.
It also issued a stinging report on Paraguay. Unlike nearby Uruguay, Paraguay has never known constitutional rule and the report merely documents further what has been generally assumed, that violation of rights "has become a constant habit" there.
Reports of the OAS commission are widely accepted as authoritative in the often emotionally charged field of human rights monitoring. The Carter administration has sought to strenghten the commission with funding ans political support.
Both countries refused repeated efforts by the Commission to make an on-site inspection.
Reporting on 25 prisoner deaths in Uruguay, the Commission held up as an example the case of teacher Nibia Zabalzagaray, 20, arrested in 1974. Within 24 hours she was dead, having "hanged herself," according to the government.
Three months later, the report continued, the family placed a stone on her grave saying she "died heroically in the fight for social justice." Offiscals removed the grave marker and arrested the relative who had put it up.
Weighing the evidence - and the refusal of the governement to offer proof of its own contentions - the Commission concluded that Zabalzagaray died "of the acts of violence to which she was sujected during her detention."
The report listed numerous methods of torture said to be in repeated use, including "submarine" dunkings in a tank of water "generally mixed with vomit, blood or urine, until reaching the point of asphyxia. Sometimes that point is passed and the prisoners dies."
Uruguay isssued a vitriolic public denunciation of the report when an initial version was presented privately by the Commission in December.
The final report - officially still secret but leaked by OAS delegations - acknowledges Uruguay's denunciations, whose main point was that extraordinary measures were required to defeat the Tupamaro leftist guerillas who disrupted the nation through armed attacks in the early 1970s and triggered the military intervention of 1973.